United States District Court, N.D. New York
STANLEY LAW OFFICES JAYA A. SHURTLIFF, ESQ., Syracuse, NY, Counsel for Plaintiff.
U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL - REGION II, DAVID B. MYERS, ESQ., New York, NY, Counsel for Defendant.
DECISION and ORDER
GLENN T. SUDDABY, District Judge.
Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Bonnie Louise Bishop ("Plaintiff") against the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "the Commissioner") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) are the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 17, 18.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is denied and Defendant's motion is granted.
I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND
A. Factual Background
Plaintiff was born on June 6, 1958. Plaintiff reports she left school in the eighth grade, but later earned a general equivalency diploma ("GED"). Her most recent full time employment was assembly piecework for an electronics manufacturer. Prior to that, Plaintiff worked as a certified nurse assistant. Generally, Plaintiff's alleged disability consists of fibromyalgia, pain in her neck, back, shoulder, legs and feet, degenerative arthritis, bone deterioration, neck tremors, migraine headaches, legal blindness in right eye, memory loss, and depression. Her alleged disability onset date is April 29, 2009 and her date last insured is June 30, 2013.
B. Procedural History
On October 17, 2009, Plaintiff applied for Social Security Disability Insurance. Plaintiff's application was initially denied, after which she timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("the ALJ"). On January 25, 2011, Plaintiff appeared at a hearing before the ALJ, Thomas P. Tielens. (T. 55-76.) The ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act on April 15, 2011. (T. 85-99.) On December 15, 2013, the Appeals Council remanded Plaintiff's case to the ALJ for further consideration. (T. 100-103.)
On remand, Plaintiff appeared at a hearing on May 2, 2012, this time before ALJ, Marie Greener. (T. 16-54.) The ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act on July 19, 2012. (T. 737-757.) On September 25, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 758-764.) Thereafter, Plaintiff timely sought judicial review in this Court.
C. The ALJ's Decision
Generally, in her decision, the ALJ made the following six findings of fact and conclusions of law. (T. 742-749.) First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date. (T. 742.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's mild lumbar spine degenerative disc disease, early cervical spine degenerative disc disease and fibromyalgia are severe impairments, but that Plaintiff's vision problems, foot problems, head tremors, interstitial cystitis and mental impairments, including depression and cognitive difficulties, are not severe. (T. 742-745.) Third, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's severe impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments located in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix. 1. (T. 745.) The ALJ considered Listing 1.04. Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has
the residual functional capacity ["RFC"] to lift and carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand and walk for up to two hours in an eight-hour workday but for no more than 15-to-20 minutes at one time; and sit for up to six hours in an eight-hour workday but for no more than two hours at one time, after which [Plaintiff] would need to stand and move around for 10-to-15 minutes before returning to sitting.
(T. 745-747.) Fifth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing her past relevant work as a circuit board assembler and an electronic assembler. (T. 747-748.) Sixth, and finally, in the alternative, the ALJ found that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff also can perform. (T. 748-749.)
II. THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
A. Plaintiff's Arguments
Plaintiff makes four separate arguments in support of her motion for judgment on the pleadings. First, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in finding that Plaintiff's mental disorders are not severe. (Dkt. No. 17 at 10-12 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ's RFC determination was not a complete and accurate assessment of Plaintiff's abilities and limitations. (Id. at 13-16.) Third, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in her assessment of Plaintiff's credibility. (Id. at 16-19.) Fourth, and finally, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in finding that Plaintiff is capable of past relevant work and that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, which Plaintiff can perform. (Id. at 20-21.)
B. Defendant's Arguments
In response, Defendant makes five arguments. (Dkt. No. 18 at 6-23 [Def.'s Mem. of Law].) First, Defendant argues that the ALJ correctly found that Plaintiff's alleged mental impairments are not severe. (Id. at 6-11.) Second, Defendant argues that the ALJ's RFC finding is supported by substantial evidence. (Id. at 11-15.) Third, Defendant argues that the ALJ's credibility determination is supported by substantial evidence. (Id. at 15-19.) Fourth, Defendant argues that the ALJ's finding at step four of the sequential analysis that Plaintiff can perform her past relevant work is supported by substantial evidence. (Id. at 19-21.) Fifth, and finally, Defendant argues that the ALJ's alternative finding at step five of the sequential analysis, that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, which Plaintiff can perform, is supported by substantial evidence. (Id. at 21-23.)
III. RELEVANT LEGAL ...